Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cookie #40 - Maryland's Smith Island Cookies

Smith Island is located off the coast of Maryland in the Chesapeake. It's Maryland's only off-inhabited off-shore island in the Chesapeake with a population of about 375. 
In April 2008, the state of Maryland declared the Smith Island Cake to be it's official dessert.  The cake consists of 8-15 thin layers of cake with chocolate frosting and crushed candy bars in between.  The traditional flavor is yellow cake with chocolate frosting and it is often made with boxed cake mix.  During my research, I did find a few "scratch" recipes, but most that I came across used a mix.  What I thought was funny was that even though a cake mix was used, a canned frosting was not. Most recipes I came across used a cooked chocolate icing.  When you see the cake, you'll know why.  The layer of icing is thin - both between the layers and on top.  To achieve this look, a thinner icing, like a cooked icing, is ideal. 
When I started to think about how to translate a Smith Island Cake into a cookie, my original thought was to do a layered cookie.  Plan A consisted of baking thin vanilla wafer type cookies and layering them with chocolate icing.  After some consideration, I felt that type of cookie would be quite cumbersome and difficult to eat.  Plus, the thin, crispy vanilla wafer wouldn't really mimic the soft cake.  As the day for the Maryland cookie drew near, I started to panic a little.  I still had no idea what I was going to do.  I thought of abandoning the idea and just do an Old Bay savory cookie.  I couldn't.  This was a challenge and I had to see it through.
Then, I had a brainstorm.
What if I made the cookie from yellow cake mix?  It would be the perfect flavor and consistency - just like the cake.  Then, rather than layering them, I'd just ice each one with cooked chocolate icing and top with crushed candy bars.  I focused on capturing the flavor and texture of the cake, rather than the appearance.

Smith Island Cookies

1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs

2 sticks butter

2-12 oz. cans evaporated milk
8 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 lbs. confectioners Sugar
3/4 cups toffee chips for decoration (or crushed candy bar of choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix cake mix, butter and eggs until well combined.
Roll into 1" balls and place 2" apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just turn golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make icing:

In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk.  Whisk in cocoa until smooth and return to heat.
Cook for 10 minutes - but DO NOT BOIL.
Remove from heat and whisk in confectioners sugar slowly.
Return to heat and slowly cook, stirring frequently, until thickened.  Icing will coat the back of spoon.  Set aside to cool.
After cookies are cooled, pour about a tablespoon of icing over each cookie and top with toffee chips or crushed candy bars.  Allow icing to dry before transferring to a resealable container to store.

**Photo from The Cheesemonger's Wife

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